Thursday, November 8, 2007

oh right, about that tree...

Thursday October 18: the first really major storm this fall. You know it's been a horrible drought in middle TN, and I know in many other areas as well. On the news, they've been warning us that the drought may cause some trees that look otherwise healthy to fall in high winds. I saw this information on the news Wednesday night, the 17th, and I spent some time in the backyard that night, when I was outside with Mischa, examining the trees around our house, trying to spot any weak areas, particularly the huge tree between our house and Kyle's, our next door neighbor. During the storms around the same time as Hurricane Katrina, in August/September of 2005, a limb from that tree fell that was the entire length of our house. It landed perfectly between the fence and the west-facing wall, and did no damage other than pulling down a clothesline. But this was a big limb. I'm only telling you this because it is pretty odd that I was even thinking about possible tree fallings. I mostly don't think about our trees at all.

So Thursday night, it was getting late, almost bedtime, but Austin and I were still up, watching the Nashville WX weather updates. We were in a tornado watch, and trying to decide if we really needed to box up the kitties, grab the pup and head downstairs. They were saying things like "wind damage likely" and that made me think, oh, cool, we're in the clear. That's no bigs. It wasn't really even storming that hard, and looking at the radar, it looked like just patches of red, mostly yellow, moving fast. Then there was a crash. It shook the roof and the floor and Austin and I jumped to our feet, yelling. The sound just kept happening, thumps, crashing, metal scraping, heavy brushing sounds against the roof and walls. It was still happening when Austin ran into the blue room and saw sparks flash outside the window. The lights inside barely flickered, and then there was silence, other than the storm outside that had come up so fast we barely had registered it. We threw on bathrobes and ran outside to try to see what was happening (note to future self: not always smart to run outside in torrential rains/possible tornado weather). The tree between the houses had splintered, with only one tall but spindly branch remaining, and the rest had fallen on our house. We had to run all the way around the front yard to get around the fallen tree to see the damage.

It could have been SO much worse. This tree could have crashed right through our roof, instead of doing (reasonably) superficial damage. It could have come through the windows, or landed on a car, or caught on fire. The most inconvenient aspect of it was to our poor neighbor Kyle, whose power and cable were out for four days. It didn't take any of our utilities out, they all run to the back of the house. We let Kyle run an extension cable from our garage, so he at least had tv and fridge for the weekend.

The day after the storm, contractors came and covered the hole in the roof with a tarp, and we were told that the tree would have to be removed before any further repairs could be made, or even a reasonable estimation of what had to be fixed. The siding on the front and side of the house was damaged, the gutters were all pulled down and the roof was, of course, in serious need of repair. You could see through the hole into the attic (before the tarp). Inside, the corner of the room where the tree hit (the blue room, which is our spare bedroom and Austin's closet) was split up the seam, and some of the crown molding had split away from the ceiling, but it all looked pretty simple. The tree had also taken off about half of the beloved (very pretty) pear tree from the front yard, but it looked like no damage to the trunk.

Fast forward over a week, when a tree removal crew finally shows up at 9 am on a Saturday. It had rained almost every day during the week, so no crews were out working. We had started to get used to having the entire front of the house blocked by fallen limbs. It gave us some nice shade and lots of privacy. We joked that it was a brilliant landscaping decision. But we had to say goodbye to the shade, as well as to most of the pear tree (they trimmed it down to basically nubs). The crew was remarkably efficient and conscientious, and left our yard spotless. They removed the rest of the tree, which was hovering in a threatening way over the neighbors' roof. The trunk was so big they had to shave down the sides to fit it into the grinder.
Another week passed once the tree was removed with no sign of contractors, still just a big hole in the roof. The house looked so ghetto, with gutters and siding still hanging down, big glamorous blue tarp, and that corner of the house now strangely naked and exposed. I called our landlord on Friday afternoon, asking about progress, and didn't hear back from him all week, after he said he knew nothing and would check in with the insurance agent. This morning I was getting dressed and Austin was in the shower when we heard footsteps on the roof. Oh. I guess the contractors are here.

Now it's after lunch, and I'm still holed up in the living room with the dogs. That's my main responsibility today: as Dad says, Ingrid eats contractors. I'm glad I'm not really trying to work from home (nothing too pressing going on over there) because the cacophony of saws, hammers, shouting and banging is distracting. To me at least. The dogs, remarkably, don't mind in the least, and have been sleeping happily, sprawled out on various pieces of furniture. I haven't been told how long this will last, only that the damage was not as bad as they thought, no broken rafters. From what I can tell, we're getting a new roof. I'm not sure what's happening with the siding yet.

Oh, you're waiting for the punchline? Well, actually, here's the joke: Thursday the 18th of October, Austin finished giving Richie all the information he needed to apply for a mortgage. We've been talking for over a year about buying this house from our landlord (who has already said he would sell it to us), and we finally started to move forward last month. We were waiting to get more information as far as mortgage costs and home inspections, but then a big tree fell down and set us waaaay back. Now what? Assuming the contractors don't turn up some structural skeletons in the closet, it's still the same house, right? I mean, sans one shade tree. But what if the new roof puts the value of the house out of our price range (everyone I've put that question to has shut me down, saying that's a non-issue)? I guess, right now, I don't know how our plans might be changed. Maybe this won't affect them at all. But still, what are the odds? It makes me feel a tiny bit superstitious about it now... maybe every step we take towards signing a mortgage, something else is doing to fall down. Maybe we should just drop it and be commitmentphobe renters for life.

Oh, and because we live where we do, our neighbor Frank is out there right now, scavenging aluminum from the wreckage. Mama Snee has said it better than I have, but bless East Nashville for being a small town stuck in a big city with a wider range of characters than you would expect from either place.

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